If you're on the hunt for cheap car insurance, you have lots of company. Cost is the biggest factor consumers use in shopping for car insurance, according to a survey of auto insurance agents by EverQuote.

Understanding how car insurance is priced will help you find good rates. Let's get right to the top ways to get cheap car insurance.

Reduce your car insurance to the state-required minimum

You only need a certain amount of liability car insurance to legally drive. If you're simply looking to get on the road the cheapest way possible, minimum state-required auto insurance will get you there.

The trade-off is that you could be personally on the hook for thousands of dollars in damage if you cause a large accident. You can be sued for any damage amount that goes above your car insurance limits.

Find your state's minimum amount of car insurance.

Also, liability insurance doesn't cover any damage to your own vehicle. (For that you need collision and comprehensive insurance.)

If you have a car loan or lease, your lender or leasing company likely requires that you have collision and comprehensive insurance. If so, you can't drop them until the loan is paid off.

Compare quotes from multiple companies

Rates from different auto insurance companies can easily vary by hundreds of dollars. That's why one of the best ways to save the most money is to compare prices. Car insurance quotes are free and easy to get, so comparing rates is a good use of time when your goal is finding cheap car insurance.

Also, insurers each have different ways of calculating rates depending on driving record. If your driving record has gotten worse (or better) in recent years, the company that was cheap for you a few years ago may no longer have a good deal.

Here's a look at how premiums can vary among insurers. These rates are based on premiums reported by EverQuote users with good driving records and coverage above the state minimum.

Cheap car insurance companies: Nationwide average premiums

Company Average annual premium
Shelter Insurance Co. $1,272
The Hartford $1,308
Erie $1,344
American Family $1,380
Ameriprise $1,392
21st Century Insurance $1,428
Travelers $1,476
Auto-Owners $1,488
Allied $1,536
Mapfre Insurance $1,548
AAA / Auto Club $1,560
Dairyland Insurance $1,560
COUNTRY Financial $1,560
State Farm $1,572
Farmers $1,572
Mercury $1,584
Safeco $1,608
USAA $1,620
Nationwide $1,620
American National Insurance $1,620
Geico $1,632
Allstate $1,632
Safeway Insurance $1,644
Commerce Insurance $1,656
MetLife Auto & Home $1,668
Amica $1,668
Liberty Mutual $1,728
Citizens (Florida only) $1,752
Esurance $1,776
Progressive $1,788
The General $1,788
Infinity Insurance $1,800
National General Insurance $1,800
Elephant $1,824
Windhaven (Florida only) $1,830
Plymouth Rock Assurance $1,920
Source: EverQuote. See full methodology below.

The cheapest car insurance company choices will vary by state and your own personal factors -- another good reason to compare quotes. Here's a look at the three cheapest companies in large states, based on premiums reported by EverQuote users with good driving records. Remember, the cheapest company for you might be different.

Cheapest in California

Company Average annual premium
The Hartford $1,176
21st Century Insurance $ 1,260
Ameriprise $ 1,320
More: Cheap car insurance in California

Cheapest in Texas

Company Average annual premium
Allied $1,332
21st Century Insurance $1,362
American National Insurance $1,428
More: Cheap car insurance in Texas

Cheapest in Florida

Company Average annual premium
Farm Bureau $1,320
The Hartford $1,464
Travelers $1,476
More: Cheap car insurance in Florida

Cheapest in New York

Company Average annual premium
Travelers $1,512
Safeco $1,548
Erie $1,560
More: Cheap car insurance in New York

Cheapest in Pennsylvania

Company Average annual premium
The Hartford $1,200
Erie $1,344
Travelers $1,368
More: Cheap car insurance in Pennsylvania

Cheapest in Illinois

Company Average annual premium
AAA Insurance $1,206
American Family $1,272
COUNTRY Financial $1,302
More: Cheap car insurance in Illinois    

Cheapest in Ohio

Company Average annual premium
Erie $1,116
Travelers $1,152
AAA Insurance $1,194
More: Cheap car insurance in Ohio    

Cheapest in Georgia

Company Average annual premium
Auto-Owners $1,440
Farm Bureau $1,488
21st Century $1,572
More: Cheap car insurance in Georgia    

Comparison shop regularly

If you've found a good deal in the past on car insurance, don't assume that company will continue to be cheap for you. Take some time to get new quotes regularly. Car insurance companies can raise rates even if you've kept a good driving record. The tool below shows average rate changes that have been approved by each state's department of insurance.

Buy your homeowners insurance from your auto insurance company

The discount for "bundling" home and auto insurance from the same insurer is generally one of the bigger discounts you can get.

Keep your driving record clean

This savings method is one you have to work at every time you drive. Getting moving violations (like speeding tickets) and accidents on your record often leads to a rate increase at renewal time and ruins your chances for the cheapest car insurance. Some insurers also offer a "good driver" discount when you keep a clean record for a certain number of years.

In a recent survey of auto insurance agents by EverQuote, 55% of agents said that most consumers don't know what issues will lead to a rate increase. Problems that can lead to a rate hike include:

  • Causing an accident.
  • Getting a ticket for a moving violation (such as speeding, running a light). Parking tickets won't affect your insurance.
  • Being convicted of a motor vehicle crime, such as a DUI.
  • Making a car insurance claim.

Here's a look at how much your rate might go up after an accident or speeding ticket, based on premiums reported by EverQuote users who had an accident or ticket vs. those who didn't:

State Insurance increase after an accident Insurance increase after a speeding ticket
California 50% 51%
Florida 34% 29%
Texas 33% 31%
New York 29% 35%
Pennsylvania 34% 31%
Source: EverQuote. See full methodology below.

Maintain good credit

As infuriating as it may be, poor credit often means you get charged more for auto insurance. That's because many insurers say that poor credit correlates to a higher chance someone will make a claim.

Insurers typically use "credit-based insurance scores" as a factor in pricing. The practice is banned only in California, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

More ways to get cheap car insurance

Here are other ways to get cheaper auto insurance.

Ask your agent to review potential car insurance discounts. It doesn't hurt to make sure you're getting all the savings you're entitled to, no matter how small. The car insurance discounts below are easy to come by, and ask your agent if you qualify for others:

  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Anti-theft system
  • Air bags
  • Automatic seat belts

Available discounts will vary by company. For example, you might be able to get a discount for paying in full rather than monthly, for signing up for automatic bill pay, or by using paperless billing. Geico, for example, has discounts for a wide range of alumni associations and membership groups, such as being a member of the National Audubon Society.

Choose an insurance-friendly vehicle. Insurance companies look at the "claims history" of vehicles and use that as a factor in rates. If other drivers of your model of car tend to crash a lot or make insurance claims, rates for the vehicle can rise for everyone. Here's a list of the cheapest cars to insure.

Small and medium SUVs and minivans are often cheapest to insure. Sports cars won't lead to cheap auto insurance.

Move. We know moving isn't always an option, but be aware that it can make a big difference in car insurance rates. Take Detroit drivers, who suffer under some of the highest rates in the nation. EverQuote users in Detroit report paying an average of $2,832 a year to insure one driver and one vehicle. If they could move to nearby Dearborn, the average drops by about $850 to $1,980. If they could move halfway across the state to Jackson, the average drops to $1,716.

Drop collision and comprehensive coverage on older cars. There's no need to pay for insurance that has little potential benefit. That could be the case if you're paying for comprehensive and collision insurance on an older vehicle.

Collision and comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle for problems like hail, theft, animal collisions and crashes into objects like trees and other cars. The most it will pay is the value of your vehicle, minus your deductible. On an older vehicle, that may not amount to much.

Find out how much you'd pay for collision and comprehensive over several years and compare that number to the value of your vehicle from a site like NADAguides. Decide whether it's worth the cost.

Save some insurance claims for big problems. Another way to get cheap auto insurance is to avoid making some types of claims. A claim can lead to a rate increase at renewal time. If you crash into someone, they can make a claim on your liability insurance -- there's no way around that. But if you dent your bumper by hitting a pole, you can decide whether you want to make a claim on your collision coverage and risk a rate increase.

Understand car insurance rates

If you don't know what affects your rates it's harder to know how to get cheap car insurance. In our survey of car insurance agents, 40% of agents said that consumers don't understand how car insurance is priced. Here's a look at the main pricing factors.

Factors affecting car insurance rates

Methodology for average premiums: Premiums were reported by EverQuote users, based on policies with bodily injury liability coverage of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident. Rates are based on single vehicles with one driver who has a good driving record with no violations. Premiums for sedans, coupes and hatchbacks were averaged. Premiums are based on expenditures reported between Jan. 1, 2016, and April 1, 2018. Your own rates will be different.

More on finding affordable car insurance where you live

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